Sep 23, 2015 - Things to Do

The Rookie 5K Run ‘n’ Walk encourages beginner and recovering runners to take the first step

Rookie 5K training

Rookie 5K training

Ten weeks ago, Elizabeth Kleto was running 15-second intervals with a 5-minute walk break. That challenging run was the first step of a long journey towards a finish line she’s determined to cross. Last night at her final team training before her big run on Saturday, she maintained 1:45 of running and 1 minute of walking for 40 minutes straight. She hasn’t missed a single practice and she’s ready.

“To be honest, some days I prayed it would rain so I didn’t have to come,” she said. “But I did them all because I wanted to do this just for me, to prove to myself that I can do it.”

If coach and program founder Cadie Jessup has anything to do with it, Elizabeth and another 175+ beginner runners like her will do just that this weekend at the inaugural Rookie 5K Run ‘n’ Walk.

Rookie 5K

The Rookie Run is an approachable, beginner-friendly 5K for “anyone who has the courage to take the first step.” Cadie decided to create the program while working with amputees who were intimidated by the idea of participating in a standard race.

Rookie 5K

“Everybody says the same thing, that they’re scared,” she said. “But they’re not scared of the 5K. They’re scared that they’re going to stand out from everybody else in a bad way. They have an idea in their head that people that do 5Ks are skinny, young and fit. They can’t get that idea out of their heads.”

Cadie Jessup

It’s a fear that resonates with Cadie. Six years ago, she had her left leg amputated above the knee due to a blood clot resulting from a collapsed vein. Just seven months after that life-altering surgery, she completed her first triathlon.

I had never done one because I was scared of it,” she said. “That’s why I’m so drawn to this concept. The limitations we put on ourselves are mental.”

Rookie 5k training
Rookie Run training

To help her race participants break through those mental barriers, she’s set up the Rookie Run to be as approachable as possible. It’s branded for beginners, untimed to ensure every finish is a celebration, supported by buddies who provide encouragement along the way and backed by a professional training program.

Rookie Run

Participants gradually build up their running capacity with a 10-week training program created by pro triathlete and Boston Marathon bombing survivor Nicole Gross. Each week the program is posted online with an optional in-person training run every Tuesday. According to Cadie, some 20 to 30 entrants participate in the training runs each week.

The event has been more than a year in the making and has been a pure grassroots effort. Cadie, who works full time at Wells Fargo, says she hasn’t seen anything else like it in the country. She received interest in replicating it as far away as California and hopes to turn it into a virtual event that people can participate in from other cities in the future.

For now, she’s focused on pulling off Saturday’s event. “I just want to make sure we do it well,” she said. With her track record of overcoming impossible odds, it’s safe to say it’ll be a success.

Cadie, whose positive spirit and infectious attitude drives everyone around her to try a little harder and run a little farther, didn’t always feel that way. She says the months immediately following her amputation were a dark time but that she found a way to move forward.

“I had a choice to make,” she said. “I could be bitter or I could be better. It’s a lot of hard work to choose to be better but that choice became a habit. I’ve had one pity party in the last six years since I made that choice. Today, I’m a very happy person. This happened to me for a reason.”

Connect with The Rookie Run


Race Details

Saturday, September 26
9 a.m. at Park Road Park


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Charlotte stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more